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Lake County Magazine - 12/2015

Lake County Magazine - 12/2012

Firefighter 2070 Flash Over Point - Lake Life 9/20/2012

Terrific Tales of Lake County - Pioneer Press 5/08/2008

Passion for Writing Article - News Sun 9/29/05

The Funnel Flyer - Lake Life 7/23/04

Opening and Closing of the Moon - News Sun 7/28/01


Q: Nine Lives is your eighth published work, your second collection of science fiction stories published by Roseheart Books. How did this collection come to be?

A: I had written the novella, “Nine Lives,” about fifteen years ago. It was a very well written and constructed but was too short to be published as a novel and too long to be published as a short story, so it collected dust in my computer. Every once in a while I would go back and tweak it and each time I saw how special it was. It upset me that no one but those closest to me could read it. Well, time passed and I found I had written a ton of science fiction short stories, some made it into my first collection, “Till Heaven and Earth Pass,” some became novels. Those that were left were dark science fiction stories deeply based in horror. It was then that I realized I had another collection on my hands. I call them “Sci-Fear” stories for obvious reasons.

Q: Even so, like your previous collection, “Nine Lives” is still very eclectic.

A: I agree. I mix in short-short stories with short stories and end with the novella. I go from the desperate doom of astronaut Newsome in “Shooting Star” to what is essentially a horrific parable in “In The High Grass” then on to a ghost story in “Candlehaze” and experiment with dark humor in “The Parade” and “The Boy Who Became A Black Hole.” I can’t seem to write the same story over and over again, which is a good thing.

Q: Can you discuss how you came up with some of the clever ideas that make up the spine of the stories in this collection.

A: It all begins by asking what if? For example, what if Jupiter’s Red Spot is responsible for all the anger and hatred on Earth? And what if it disappeared? (“Angry Red Spot”). What if you landed on an alien planet that’s entirely covered in deep soft, black, fertile soil and what if you buried a dead human in that soil? (“The Garden of Ar Dessi”). What if you had the power to kill with your mind? (“Toucher”). What if a cat really had nine lives?

Q: Again, you illustrated the cover for the book.

A: Yes, but I did something different this time. I tell the story of the novella, “Nine Lives”. On the back cover is Ramses II holding the charmed white cat his temple priest created to protect Pharaoh’s life. You can see how young, proud and strong she is as she sits in Ramses’ arms. She has all nine of her lives in front of her. Then, on the front cover, I show a broken, tired cat in her ninth life, sustained by the robotic technology of the twenty-first century as she lays in the arms of her most recent owner. In the background is the red deserts and shining new cities of Mars. The reader looks at this and wonders, “How the hell did this cat get from ancient Egypt to futuristic Mars?”


Q: How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

A: Well, at the time my son, Joshua, just became a cadet for the Fox Lake Fire Department and I was lying in bed one night thinking about how proud I was of him when I asked myself - what would firefighting possibly be like in the future? My mind took it from there, flying fire trucks, the projected images and information on a firefighter's blast shield, that amazing jacket I describe in the novel, etc. Then I went about pulling a story up around all that, with the characters and subplots nearly complete in my mind. It was a truly amazing night of inspiration, I think I got about two hours sleep, that's how excited I was about the story.

Q: So you based the main character, Braden Rathman, on your son?

A: Yes. He told me about the obstacle course he had to complete under a certain time and that became the first chapter of the novel. Then he told me how this incredible opportunity became a reality for him, who he met, what education he had to complete, how he was trained to fight a propane gas fire, all of that went into the book. He still tells me about his experiences and I keep it all in a journal for future stories.

Q: Do you have plans to make this a series?

A: I do. I've got the next three novels planned out but writing them depends on how well this first book is received.

Q: The book is much more than a straight forward sci-fi action treatment, there's all this amazing futuristic technology, a murder mystery, a love story and solid secondary character development. Could you comment on this?

A: Sure. I once attended a reading by an author who just had her first book published, this was over ten years ago. She talked about juggling and how it became more interesting for the observer the more balls the juggler juggled. She was, of course, talking in metaphor about the points you just brought up concerning my book. I'm juggling all these balls, trying to keep them in the air and the reader is waiting to see how long I can do it. I hope I succeeded.

Q: The cover of the book is simply amazing.

A: I was honestly worried about that. It's the first of my novels I really had no control over concerning the cover artwork. But, yes, it came out awesome and catches the color and excitement of the story perfectly.

Q: How would you describe the novel in one short sentence.

A: Imagine John McClane, Bruce Willis' character in Die Hard, as a young fire fighter in the year 2070. Q: What's in the future for you writing-wise?

A: Well, I always have something going on. In the spring and summer I usually write short stories and then in the fall and winter I write my novels. My birthday in the last day of November so I always take my vacation that week to start a novel. I've been doing this for a decade.


Q: This is your first collection of science fiction short stories, how much of a departure from your previous work was that for you?

A: Not much. I've always been a huge fan of science fiction, my favorite authors are science fiction writers (Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke) and if you look closely enough, there's a touch of sci-fi in all my novels, even in Evermore which is a Civil War ghost story.

Q: So you're comfortable in the sci-fi arena?

A: Very. I can't tell you how many science fiction stories I've completed over the past ten years, and how many more I have to write. It's my favorite genre.

Q: What is it about science fiction that interests you so much?

A: I think because the genre is so free and inclusive, unlike literary fiction or horror, sci-fi can be filled with elements from every genre known. The sci-fi landscape in boundless. Unlike other genres, I can create an entire world, an entire people, culture, language, music, whatever, from scratch and if it's good enough it's as real as anything else and should be accepted as such.

Q: The stories in this collection are very eclectic, was that intentional?

A: Yes. I wanted to show the reader how versatile a writer I am. I go from a thought provoking philosophical story like "Growing Young" to an action-packed sci-fi opera like "The Lightning Harvesters," to a touching love story (Forever: A Mars Love Story), to an emotion-wrenching story of personal loss (When the Comforter is Come), to a psychedelic bit of word play in the tradition of Bradbury (Till Heaven and Earth Pass) and end with a hilarious comedy about an alien abductee who catches his abductors cheating at poker in "Never Play Poker With A Space Alien". There's something for everyone in this collection.

Q: Tell us about the cover.

A: That was fun. It's a dramatization of "Never Play Poker With A Space Alien" with my youngest brother Paul playing the protagonist, it's right at the moment where he catches the aliens cheating at poker. There are visual hints of other stories from the collection on the cover but you'll have to look closely.

Q: The aliens on the cover are quite cute.

A: Yes. I bought an alien costume from a local costume shop and hired a neighbor kid to wear it. I had to grease the masks up with Vaseline to get that lifelike feel to them. The whole thing took ten minutes to photograph. I think the cover came out quite good.

32 Terrific Tales of Lake County, IL

Preface: The author talks about the origin this book and gives background on Lake County, Illinois history and geography.
Prologue: Summertime Roll: After 25 years, Charlie sees two of his childhood friends again (Doc and Bill). They reunite to celebrate the life of Crazy George, who’d suddenly passed away. They begin to remember and tell their stories.
Empty Shoes: Crazy George has found an old World War II parachute and the guys devise a plan to see what happens when they strap him into the parachute from the back seat of a convertible, go really fast and then open the chute up!
The Purple Crayon: The first day of school and Crazy George steals Charlie’s treasured purple crayon. The battle that follows is hilarious!
The Swamp Next Door: Charlie remembers moving into his new house in Lake County from Chicago, the swamp next door, and meeting Doc, Bill and Crazy George for the first time!
Stilts: The classic battle against the bully story, only, the weapons of choice are stilts!
Playing Chicken: Pester Anderson is a mean old coot and Doc works for him on his farm. Wondering why they are so big and if they taste the same as regular chickens, the boys are caught stealing one of Pester’s prized giant chickens and he fires Doc. In revenge, Doc (the smart one) hypnotizes a line of chickens across Pester’s driveway which causes him to veer into the neighboring Liberty River and the secret of what makes his chickens so big is revealed!
Fishing With Dad: A hilarious fish story that anyone who knows anyone who likes to fish will love. Complete with a freezing Lake Michigan Pier and a carp that won’t die!
Tinkerbell: Charlie’s deaf and severely humpbacked white cat terrorizes the neighborhood but gets it in the end!
Gwunkies: What’s the worst meal a mom can possibly make? Read this and find out!
The Glider: The boys build a glider out of 2x4’s, bed sheets, clothesline and a paint can and launch it off a viaduct. What can possibly go wrong?
The Bike Frankenstein: Charlie’s mom and dad give him his first bike, but it’s made of parts from different bicycles. What lesson will Charlie learn from this?
Wasps: There’s a legendary axe stuck up in the “V” of a tall tree deep in the woods. Many have tried and all have failed to bring it down. Will a wasp’s nest derail the boy’s plans and ultimate glory?
In Deep: The boys build a diving helmet to look for underwater treasure in Glimmer Pond. Bill is the victim this time!
Red Cedars: Charlie’s dad creates the most beautiful front yard in Lake County, but something’s wrong with his new Red Cedar trees. Nothing a can of Green spray paint can’t fix!
Lake Charlie: Ball tag, a tornado, a flooded back yard and a rainbow!
Light as a feather, Stiff as a Board: The boys spend a night showing Crazy George the horror of a simple child’s game!
Adelle Buttonbelle: Crazy George shows the boys how he made the prettiest girl in school fall in love with him!
Lunch: Doc doesn’t feel well at lunch one school day and his friends don’t help matters. The chaos that follows sends everyone for the doors!
A Dog Named Satan: The man who owns the lumberyard where the boys steal all the wood for their crazy adventures has enough and hires a demonic watchdog! Will the boys succeed this time?
The Rambler: History’s second ugliest car ever and Charlie’s mom owns it. But there’s more to it than its looks!
Uncle Tim & the 4th of July: See what happens in the backyard when Charlie’s Uncle Tim brings over a truckload of fireworks for the Fourth of July!
Looks Like Love: Crazy George’s dog, Jake, escapes and finds his way to Charlie’s backyard and his dog, Heidi. As the crowd of neighbors and kids grow, can Charlie’s parents find anything that will separate the two lovebirds (or dogs, in this case) before things get out of control?
Good Humor: The world’s oldest and meanest ice cream man comes up against the boys!
Our State Bird: A horrible noise and flashing lights cause the boys to think that Earth is being invaded by space aliens. But, is there a simpler explanation?
The Amazing, Astounding & Awesome Monkey Woman: The Lake County Fair is back again but this time it holds more wonders and excitement than ever before!
The Nun: Bill’s relentless teasing of an old nun comes back to haunt him and he barely escapes within an “inch” of his life!
The Mick: A wonderful character study of a talented, but troubled kid. We all knew someone like him.
Lakehurst: A heartfelt tribute to a shopping mall that was so important to the memories of so many people in Lake County. Beware of overweight security guards that guard coin fountains a little too aggressively!
Matchman: A strange new family has moved into the neighborhood. They speak a different language and can walk on rocks with their bare feet. Who are they and why does the father’s van start on fire one night, with him in it?
Crabapple: Old Scotty Fasano’s heavily guarded crabapple trees are too much of a temptation for Crazy George and the boys. See what Old Scotty does to keep them out of his yard!
The Drive-In: Everyone is talking about an awesome new movie, “The Exorcist” and it has come to the local drive-in, but the boys can’t get anyone to bring them in to see the rated R movie. Their solution is simple but is the price they pay worth it?
Bats: Old Mrs. Bresky was rumored to have purchased the fourth phone in Lake County. But now, as she nears the final call, she watches the boys catching bats in the road in front of her house, shares her wisdom and memories with them, and then begins acting strangely like standing in the middle of the road in her nightgown and forgetting their names. One evening, as the boys are once again trying to catch bats, they realize her house is dark and that she’s gone.
Epilogue: Summertime Roll: Charlie, Bill and Doc bid Crazy George farewell and reliving their childhood adventures makes them evaluate their present lives. One last time, to honor Crazy George, they roll down Horror Hill, just as they did 25 years before.

Interview With Gregg Rosenquist About Opening & Closing of the Moon

“The Opening and Closing of the Moon”

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: Well, I wanted a vehicle to somehow immortalize certain aspects of my life and this seemed like the perfect one. It all started from a short story I wrote of the same title and my teacher at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Ms. Paulette Roeske, said it would serve itself much better as a novel.

Q: So much of what happens in the novel is autobiographical?

A: Yes. Except all the sad parts. I made those up. But most writers worth their salt will inject some of their own experiences into their stories. It makes it a real experience for the reader and I’ve found that someone living in California has had some of the same experiences as someone living in Maine. Much of the feedback I’ve been getting from people is that they identify completely with something like the baseball memory Daniel tells to Sydney, or the scene where Daniel teaches Jacob to ride a bike. Those experiences link us all together.

Q: What’s the story about?

A: At its most basic element, it’s the story of ten years in the life of a person. Could be you me, anybody. The ups and downs we all go through. It’s seen first-person through Daniel’s eyes, putting the reader right into his head, thus closer to their own experiences.

Daniel is the main character and the story opens with the knowledge that he is completely in love with this beautiful red-headed girl, Sydney, who plays the violin at the college they both attend. His love for her is almost an obsession but I turn the tables and the reader discovers that she likes him too. They get married, start a life together and when Sydney becomes pregnant, she develops a severe blood disease. She dies at the end of the first half giving birth to Jacob. The next half of the book deals with Daniel’s relationship with his supremely gifted son and how his son helps him to deal with loss and move on, to live. I found myself completely into the characters in this novel and was surprised at how emotional it made me when Jacob dies at the end of the same blood disease his mother had.

Q: Talk about the structure of the book.

A: Well, I split it into two books. The first, The Opening of the Moon, the part dealing with Daniel and Sydney’s life together. The second, The Closing of the Moon, deals with Daniel’s relationship with Jacob. The Moon metaphor is clearly explained in the novel by Jacob and really helps the reader understand what’s going on.

Q: Is the novel metaphor-heavy?

A: I don’t think so. The story is liberal with metaphor, I mean even the color of Sydney’s hair is a metaphor, but it’s still an easy story to read and understand. It’s no Ulysses that’s for sure!

Q: How long did it take to write this story?

A: Four years and five drafts. I worked over every single word on the page carefully, I even designed the cover!

Interview With Gregg Rosenquist About The Funnel Flyer

Interview With Gregg Rosenquist About The Funnel Flyer

Q: You begin the novel with all the neighbors gathering in Annie’s backyard the morning after a devastating tornado hits the outskirts of town. They’re all looking at this strangely dressed man hanging from parachute straps in a tree. Why did you begin it there?

A: I thought it was a good way to introduce all the main characters and also it sets the tone for the rest of the novel: quirky and interesting and mysterious. It could only get better from there. I didn’t want to begin the story with a detailed description of a tornado because there’s one in the middle and at the end. Also, I like to start stories that have already begun. It gets the reader into the story much faster.

Q: Is there a real Ridgley County in Missouri and why did you use it?

A: Yes, there is a real Ridgley County. It’s in the southwestern part of the state and I used it because it’s near the famous Tornado Alley that goes through Texas and Oklahoma and I thought it was logical that if a man could fly tornadoes, Ridgley County might be a place where he would land. Also, I wanted a place with a small town feel where I could create its own specific mythologies and unique characters, making it more real to the reader. I love doing that. All places have their own mythologies unique to them and that’s interesting to me.

Q: How well do you get to know the place in which your story takes place, especially if you’ve never been there?

A: I pull out a road atlas, decide where I want the story to take place and then I draw out a complete map of the town on a big piece of paper. I draw out the individual houses, the lakes, forests, buildings, whatever, then I name the streets and create a legend of who lives where and in the process of doing that I get an intimate feel of place and sometimes that creates more characters and more elements in the story.

Q: Where did this story come from?

A: It began with a friend’s dream. The scene in the novel where Annie dreams of being armless and legless on a cot in a field while a tornado approaches from the horizon was based entirely on her dream and it fascinated me. Tornadoes have always fascinated me. I’ve been through two of them so I’m not scared of them but I respect their power and metaphorical possibilities. From there I began creating elements around that dream and thought up the impossible idea of a man who could fly tornadoes by jumping into them. Annie and the rest of the characters came next and soon I had the entire story complete in my mind.

Q: Why did you choose Annie’s point of view instead of Max’s?

A: I’ve always preferred writing from a female’s point of view. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because I believe that women are the stronger and more intelligent of the species. They’re certainly more beautiful. For this story Annie’s point of view seemed to work better because there’s all this longing to get out of Ridgley County and there’s this terrible secret inside of her and I thought the reader would be able to identify with her more easily than with Max, a man who flies funnels.

Q: All the characters, especially Annie, were written very well. Were they based on real people you know?

A: Some of them were, yes, but I don’t name names. The best thing to do when writing a character is to base it on someone real. Readers are smart, they can tell from the details that what a writer is writing about is true and that makes the story more believable.

Q: Speaking of characters, Sheriff Van Wyk seems to be a father figure to Annie and Denny, can you talk in detail about this?

A: Yes, Sheriff Van Wyk is a father figure to them, but so is Mr. Wagnall, that’s why when he dies Annie is so distraught. I mean, at the start of the story Annie’s father had been gone a year and we only see him in flashbacks and memories and there’s a good reason for that. He was a brutal and evil man and that’s why the scene where we see that Annie has killed him is so harsh, in contrast to the rest of the story. It had to be in order to justify to some extent her killing him. There isn’t a person I know who wouldn’t think the man deserved to die and I had to show that clearly. Even though he’s dead, he casts a long shadow over the entire story. Annie works for Sheriff Van Wyk in the police station and he protects her and Denny as best as he can. He suspects on some level that Annie had something to do with her father’s disappearance but he does nothing about it. It’s that small town justice, leaving dead things lie. He knows that life has a way of balancing itself out.

Q: Who’s Ozzy?

A: Ozzy is a fictional lake monster Annie has created to scare Denny from swimming in Ruby Lake and accidentally finding out what happened to his father (Annie sent him and his rig over the cliff and into the depths of Ruby Lake one rainy night after he attacked them and that’s where he’s been since). Of course, Ozzy is really their dead father and he was a monster so Annie wasn’t really lying to him. Max eventually finds out the truth, though, and like Sheriff Van Wyk, he understands.

Q: The love that develops between Annie and Max seems tilted more to Annie’s side. Why is that?

A: Well, it shows what Max’s priorities really are. He loves Annie very much but the excitement of flying funnels and searching for his mother, which is the reason he first started flying funnels, is the main reason he gets up in the morning. But Annie, from the moment she sees him sleeping in her father’s bed that first morning, is in total and complete love with him. She sees freedom and her future in him. She daydreams about having a family with him. They both have different agendas and finding the middle ground between them and wondering if Max stays or goes at the end keeps the reader reading.

Q: Then there’s Nick?

A: Yes. Nick is Annie’s old high school boyfriend, her first and only intimate partner, and he still loves her years after they’ve broken up. So much so that he’s completely obsessed with her and when Max arrives, his jealousy is matched only by his stupidity. I felt I needed an antagonist that was still around to physically threaten Annie, something to show the reader that the past does sometimes catch up with her, that she’s not getting off scot-free from murdering her father. There’s always a price to be paid for a person’s actions. Nick works at a burger place, lives with his mother and has no future so you can imagine he’s a pretty unhappy guy. When Annie gets a court order against him he freaks out and lives in the woods behind her house, stalking her until the day he tries to murder her on the cliffs over Ruby Lake. Max saves her just in time, though, so everything’s okay.

Q: Your use of metaphor, like the peanut butter swirled around in the jelly by Denny is interesting and consistent throughout the story. Can you talk about some of them?

A: Sure. You picked a good one and one that I used a lot in the story. I used it also in the 4th of July scene at Ruby Lake where all the people were moving and swirling around Annie in a chaotic motion that resembled a tornado and when Annie and her father roll down the stairs together that certainly calls to mind the motion of a tornado. I used it to illustrate how Annie was feeling and whenever you read those passages it should bring you right back to the wild and uncontrolled power of a tornado and how easily it could be for her to let it take her away, but it never does. Unlike Max, Annie fights the pull of the tornado and comes out stronger on the other side. There are plenty of other metaphors in the story and a reader has to be trained, at some level, to think metaphorically or else the exact meaning of what a writer is trying to get across will be lost.

Q: The big red balloon is another effective metaphor. What does that convey to the meaning of the story?

A: That stems from problems Denny is having with bullies in the neighborhood and Max helps him become cock of the walk with his balloon experiment. All the kids in the neighborhood want to be a part of the experiment after they find out about it. The idea is to write a letter about yourself, put it in a plastic bag with a self addressed stamped envelope, attach it to a balloon filled with helium and let it go, hopefully, a few weeks or months later Denny will receive a reply from whomever’s yard it landed in. But it means much more than that to Annie. The fact that it’s nothing more than a primitive telephone, a tool to contact people in far away lands after a long journey, makes it a another viable metaphor for how Annie feels and what she hopes for in her life. Of course, at the end of the story, Denny gets a reply from someone who lives in Newfoundland and by that point, Denny has more friends than he knows what to do with and his grades are back up. It’s all very charming.

Q: Height seems to be an important part in telling the story.

A: Yes. There’s Denny’s safe place way up at the top of the tree, there’s the red balloon, there’s the high cliff outcrop over Ruby Lake where some very important things happen and there’s also the power of a tornado to pick someone up and wisk them away. Height in this story represents the search for change and safety from things that might harm you. It allows them the time to think and hopefully change their lives, as opposed to Nick who’s either cowering in the woods or stuck in a burger joint and will never change. He’ll never get his feet off the ground. Height equals change. Simple as that.

Q: Talk about the Wizard of Oz theme you have running throughout the story.

A: Yes, there’s quite a few subliminal references concerning the Wizard of Oz that I slipped into the story but you really have to be a fan of the movie to get them. I did that as a nod to one of my favorite movies. There’s a newly installed red brick road, Main Street, that turns yellow in the sun because the contractors used the incorrect dye. Of course, that yellow brick road leads to the train station, i.e. the Emerald City. Then there’s Woodman’s Hardware Store, Judy’s All Purpose Grocery Store, Baum’s Farm, Ruby Lake, even the roads are named after the stars of the movie: Bolger Street, Haley Street, Fleming Street. There’s even a scene in the first chapter where a man is being interviewed on television and his name is Mr. Lahr. It’s all pretty clever and amusing. I had a lot of fun with it.

Q: You certainly have many things going on in the story; why Max flies funnels, Annie's terrible secret about her father, her relationship with Nick and her longing to see the world, Denny’s problems with bullies and yet it doesn’t seem forced as some contrived plot lines can often be.

A: Well, it’s difficult to juggle many storylines like that and it’s up to the writer to make sure it reads as natural as life. It’s a technique that keep things interesting for the reader; throw a couple obstacles into the mix and see how it all gets resolved.

Q: Talk about the end of the story.

A: It ends the only way it can, with Max jumping into another tornado and disappearing out of Annie’s life. Of course, he’s left them all with things they can use to make their lives better. Nick is gone, Annie begins to write again and Denny is as adjusted as a child can be and no longer the anti-social, earpicking kid he was at the beginning of the story. I find it interesting that everyone’s problems are resolved but Max’s. He’s still shooting dice with his life in an effort to find his mother and flying funnels.

Q: Will there be a sequel?

A: No. The story ends where it ends. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether Max finally finds his mother and settles down. It’s an old technique Hitchcock used to use in his movies.

Q: How long did it take you to write The Funnel Flyer?

A: It was based on a short story I wrote back in 2000 and I’ve been working on the novel since then. I hope I got it right.

Q: This novel is much shorter than your first novel “The Opening and Closing of the Moon. Why is that?

A: It may be short but it’s deep. It works on many levels. I think it’ll stand up to repeated readings because the characters are so likable and the story is different and yet familiar. There are many themes it explores and many things in it that make it interesting and I don’t think I needed 300 pages to tell this story correctly. And that may be a good thing nowadays because readers seem to be too busy to read a long book. Most of the time they’re lights are out by 9pm and the pleasure of reading a good book that can be read in one or two nights might be the perfect thing for them. Who knows? I’m sure someday I’ll write a long novel and when I do it’ll be worth it.

Interview With Gregg Rosenquist About Evermore

Q: First of all, is there really a Marrowbone, Kentucky?

A: Oh, yes. I knew that I wanted this story to take place in Kentucky so I grabbed my trusty world atlas that was published in the late 1950’s and found it in the south-eastern part of the state. I couldn’t have asked for a better name to put a haunted plantation. I haven’t looked in any new atlases so I don’t know if it still exists.

Q: You divide Evermore into 3 books, why is that?

A: For a couple of reasons. The first is that I wanted the story to take place before, during and after the Civil War. Book 1 takes place before the war, Book 2 during and Book 3 after. The American Civil War was a defining and powerful tragedy for the country that still, to this day, affects the country and using it as a basket to keep the story in turned out to be an effective technique for the gothic horror that goes on in the story. The second is that each book represents past, present and future. In Book 1, if you read carefully, you’ll see things happening to Emily that cause her to lose everything connected to her old life, her past. In Book 2, we find Emily running the plantation during the war and clearly, she’s living in the present, surviving. Book 3 deals with Emily’s future and why she fears it so much.

Q: The book opens with all the main characters at Emily’s father’s funeral and we learn that Emily has been taught by her father in the arts of the Mortician. There’s a horrifying scene where she works on the body of a dead child that has been trampled by a horse, in the basement. The child is part of a strict religious sect that lives out in the woods beyond town and one of their laws is that the child be prepared for burial by sunup or her soul will be eternally damned to walk the Earth. What can you tell us about that scene?

A: It’s an intense scene written so tightly that it becomes claustrophobic for the reader. That’s on purpose. It’s a way of getting the reader into Emily’s head, to feel what she feels as she prepares this poor little girl for the afterlife; suffocated, hopeless. I researched what tools and techniques were used by a country mortician back then, beeswax and such, and hopefully the reader finds that interesting. What’s also interesting is that because of that little girl, Emily decides never to use her skills again, but of course, she does later on in the story, with her daughter in a scene that parallels this one. I wanted to create circles in the story, things that happened at the beginning often happen later on but in different circumstances. It’s a way to balance the story out and make the reader recall what happened earlier on.

Q: There are many metaphorical implications in the story, talk about some of them.

A: Evermore is definitely metaphor heavy. The colorless painting of Emily’s father at the funeral where the sun’s glare has erased his face speaks to the loss Emily feels. There’s the old oak tree by the river that’s growing away from the river but its branches still hang out over it, that tells the reader exactly where Emily’s mind is at that point. The curled up snakeskin on her father’s grave represents change and Emily takes it that way. Even the weather in a scene is designed to inform the reader of what Emily is feeling or thinking. There are many others and I tried to weave them seamlessly into the construction of the story so that they seem a natural part of the storytelling.

Q: Nathan is an interesting character. When we first meet him at Edshar’s funeral, he seems gentlemanly and truly in love with Emily?

A: Yes, and of course, he turns out to be one of the most evil people ever to walk the planet. Evil enough to kill his own daughter because he wanted a son to pass down his evil through. We also learn, later on, that he’s killed his own mother and father. Their ghosts haunt Evermore and show the reader everything, as many of the other spirits on the plantation do. I liked the idea of Nathan, a living human, being the evil one for the reader to be scared of and not the ghosts. The ghosts in Evermore are, for the most part, helpful and benign. Once Emily learns how to deal with them, they reveal to her the truth about Evermore and Nathan’s satanic interests. They only want to rest in peace and to do that they must, through Emily, correct the wrong that had been done to them.

Q: Once Emily marries Nathan, things start to go downhill for her.

A: That’s right. In fact, the day she marries Nathan is an unusually frigid and cloudy day in Burkesville. It foreshadows what’s going to happen to her once she steps off the train in Marrowbone and nothing she does will ever change it back to the happy, lazy days of sipping iced tea on the porch with Amanda, her best friend. No, from here on in it’s horror and hardship for Emily. She meets the spirits on the plantation, her mother dies, she discovers that Nathan never really loved her, she gets pregnant, her daughter is murdered by Nathan, Amanda sleeps with Nathan. It goes on and on and on until finally, when the red rain comes at the end of Book 2, she goes insane.

Q: Talk about the red rain. It’s a truly horrifying scene.

A: Well, it’s the idea that gave birth to the story. I was reading an incredibly interesting book on strange mysteries of the world and came across a whole chapter on strange things that have been recorded falling from the sky. These are all documented and true and in some cases there is still evidence left in jars of formaldehyde. Rainstorms of frogs, fish and worms, for example, but the strangest of all was the story of a red cloud that appeared, one summer day in the 1860’s or so, over a town in the midwest. Hundreds of people saw it and were horrified when the rain coming out of the red cloud turned out to be blood, then chunks of rotted flesh fell out of the sky. I took that and built Evermore around it. In the book, it marks the sign to Emily that Nathan has finally been killed in the war and it sends her into madness. But, it turns out Nathan isn’t gone at all. His ghost returns and haunts Emily relentlessly in Book 3 and not even Wesley, her true love, can protect her from it.

Q: Wesley is another interesting character. In this case we dislike him at the beginning of the story because you know he loves Emily and that they should be together but his immaturity and yearning to travel and have adventures in his life send Emily into Nathan’s arms

A: Exactly, and by the end of the story, he’s matured and redeemed himself with us and Emily. That’s what makes his death at the end so shocking. Nathan’s ghost tricks Emily into believing that Wesley is him and she shoots him dead. Only then, as he lay on the floor dying, does she see that it was actually Wesley.

Q: The working of the plantation in Book 2 and the details about tobacco farming seem very authentic.

A: Yes, I researched everything I could about tobacco farming and the tobacco wars of the 19th Century, something I never knew about. Tobacco was comparable to gold back then. Thank God for the Internet. Best tool a writer could have.

Q: Book 2 introduces 3 new characters to us. The 3 Confederate scouts.

A: I thought it would add a new element of danger and drama to the narrative now that Nathan’s out of the picture fighting in the war. I particularly enjoyed the scene in the house where the spirits, trying to protect Emily, attack and scare them off the plantation.

Q: The epic 3 day battle between the Union and Confederate armies on the plantation is excellent in the way it was presented to the reader.

A: As a ghostly flashback. Yes, the reader doesn’t see what happened there as it happened because Emily hid in the mining caves outside of town as it was going on. But later on, after the battle is over and she returns to Evermore, she’s standing alone one night on the porch and the spirits reveal to her the terrible carnage, the deafening noise, the ultimate horrors of war in a vision so realistic it renders her unconscious. She’s never really the same strong, independent woman after that. Then, the Red rain comes and her madness is complete.

Q: And we find her alone on the plantation reading a telegram of Nathan’s death as Book 3 opens.

A: Yes. She’s been abandoned by Melly and even the people in town treat her like an outcast because of the red rain. Then, one day, Nathan appears and she can’t believe it. He goes up to his room, makes all sorts of noise throughout the night and when Emily finally gets the courage to go into his room, it looks as if the room hadn’t been lived in in years. But night after night he returns and haunts her with his presence.

Q: This is when Wesley appears at the front door.

A: Yes, and they don’t even recognize each other. To Wesley, she looks like an old woman and he walks with a cane because of an injury sustained by Nathan during the war.

Q: Wesley was there when Nathan was killed?

A: He saw it all and when he tells Emily how it happened, she wants to tell him that he’s wrong, that Nathan’s alive and has been visiting her every night. But she says nothing because she fears Wesley will think her insane. They get to know each other all over again, fall in love and then she mistakenly kills him in that terrible scene.

Q: But, Like Emily’s daughter, Lizzie, Wesley returns to her in spirit form.

A: Yes, and she knows he’s coming so she puts on the wedding dress she married Nathan in, lays in bed and waits for him.

Q: Melly returns at this point.

A: And what she finds scares her. A bedridden young lady who looks a hundred years-old and on death’s doorstep. They have a conversation about what to do with Emily’s body so that she won’t come back as a ghost after she passes on. Of course, she does appear as a ghost in the last chapter of the book, watching over Lizzie’s grave.

Q: I like the fact that in the last lines of the novel, Melly is determined to plant a sapling on the ground over Emily’s grave to secure her spirit in the ground, but you leave it open by saying that she “would do it tomorrow.”

A: I thought that leaving the end vague like that was the only way to end it for Emily. Does Melly ever plant that sapling or does Emily watch over Lizzie’s grave for an eternity? I’ll let the reader decide.

Q: This novel is completely different than your first two novels (The Opening and Closing of the Moon, 2001 and The Funnel Flyer, 2004).

A: And I’m proud of that. It does irk me that people compare my books with each other because you really can’t. They’re written in different styles, have different themes, and are completely different stories. The next book I want to publish is a collection of three science fiction stories dealing with man’s future in space and the place religion has in it, if any. So you can see the differences compared to even this one.

Q: How long did it take you to write Evermore?

A: It was based on a short story I wrote back in 1996 and I’ve been working on the novel on and off since then. I hope I got it right. I put everything I had into it.

Q: This novel is much longer than your previous two novels. Why is that?

A: I don’t know. This one comes out to 191pages, it’s the longest book I’ve written yet but some would say it’s still too short. I just don’t see why I need to take up to 300 or more pages to tell a story when it could be told just as effectively with metaphor and tight, solid writing.

Q: The cover art is quite stunning.

A: Yes, It was done by Nora Baxter. She did a wonderful job. She asked me what I wanted and gave it to me. I couldn’t be happier with it. It captures the color and cold feeling of the story perfectly. If anyone should want to purchase this book, just go to whiskeycreekpress.com